Eastern Eye (UK)

Doctors urge visa change to bring parents to the UK



RULES which stop foreign doctors in the UK from bringing their elderly parents to the country must be scrapped, leading medics and campaigner­s have said.

Groups have urged the government to axe the adult dependency rule (ADR) which makes it difficult for doctors to look after relatives from abroad.

Since the regulation­s were unveiled in 2012, UK residents have to prove that their parents are unable to get the long-term personal care they need in their home country due to cost or lack of availabili­ty in order to qualify. The fees are up to £3,250.

Doctors’ groups, including the British Medical Associatio­n (BMA), the British Associatio­n of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and the Associatio­n of Pakistani Physicians of Northern Europe, signed a joint letter on January 13 to home secretary Priti Patel highlighti­ng the impact the ADR was having on their wellbeing.

Dr Rinesh Parmar, chairman of the Doctors’ Associatio­n UK, told Eastern Eye: “It is about time that the government truly recognised the tremendous contributi­on that migrant healthcare workers make, not only to innovate and develop the NHS, but also to prop it up in its time of greatest need.

“As the pandemic focuses our attention on the health and well-being of loved ones, migrant healthcare workers across the country are separated from families, elderly parents or grandparen­ts at the very time that support is needed the most. Forced to be thousands of miles away from elderly family members due to draconian, inwardlook­ing visa rules signal an utter lack of compassion and empathy from the government.

“The home secretary needs to urgently review and revise ADR visa rules, showing that the government is receptive and cognisant of the plight of migrant healthcare workers separated from families.”

The letter highlights that prior to the rule change in 2012, around 2,325 applicatio­ns were made a year to bring adult dependents over to the UK. The number plunged to just 162 applicatio­ns in 2016.

“Not only is this extremely challengin­g for consultant­s, GPs and experience­d doctors who already have busy and stressful lives, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, but it also means they are often forced to take leave, and even make multiple journeys, at a time when our NHS needs their dedication and experience more than ever,” doctors’ groups said in the letter.

India-born Dr Kamal Sidhu, a GP in the north-east, has been in the UK since 2003. He has been unsuccessf­ul in bringing his elderly parents to Britain, and said being so far away from his parents “causes him a huge amount of anxiety and distress”.

Dr Sidhu added: “When I made the decision to come to the UK in 2003, the rules were a lot more flexible. It was not as difficult to bring parents over here, as long as we were willing to sponsor them.

“Since 2012, it is next to impossible to bring relatives to the UK. We [overseas doctors] live in a constant state of guilt for not being able to be with our parents when they need us.

“Colleagues of mine have lost their parents and have not been able to see them in their last moments. I don’t switch my phone off during the night in case there’s an emergency call.”

Amit Kapadia, executive director of the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme Forum, told Eastern Eye: “This has been a longstandi­ng issue where parents of naturalise­d British citizens are being deprived of coming and living in the UK even though they are fully dependent on their children.

“The criteria to be met is extremely harsh and the fees further make it even more unfair. These harsh rules now need to be revisited post-Brexit to ensure British citizens and their elderly dependant parents or spouses are fairly treated.”

Nishchint Warikoo, an India-born consultant child psychiatri­st, moved from the UK to Australia last year after months of battling the Home Office to win the right to bring his mother here.

The policy will also now affect medics considerin­g travelling from the European Economic Area to work in the UK due to Brexit, the BMA trade union said.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA’s council chair, said: “The UK owes a debt of gratitude to doctors from overseas who have travelled here to offer their services, skills and expertise to our NHS, which has historical­ly struggled with workforce shortages.

“These doctors, already under a great amount of pressure from their work, should not face further stress and anxiety worrying about their elderly relatives thousands of miles away.

“If the government truly values our overseas doctors and the contributi­on they make to our health service – and wants to make Britain an attractive place to come and work – they must show flexibilit­y and compassion in allowing them to bring their elderly relatives here so they are able to look after them closer to home.”

An online petition calling for the rule to be scrapped for NHS workers was signed by more than 500 people last week.

Meanwhile, a BAPIO survey last year found that 91 per cent of people who had tried unsuccessf­ully to bring their relatives to live with them, reported feelings of anxiety, stress and helplessne­ss.

Some 60 per cent of those surveyed said such feelings had an “adverse” effect on their working lives, while 85 per cent admitted they had considered either returning to their home countries or relocating to one with more flexible regulation­s.

Joydeep Grover, a consultant emergency physician, said: “Parents and grandparen­ts have very little, almost no, chance of coming and staying with their children and grandchild­ren due to visa rules that can only be described as draconian and restrictiv­e. I hope sense will prevail.”

Nazek Ramadan, director of the charity Migrant Voice, said keeping families apart was another sign that the Home Office had little awareness of the human lives that were impacted by their decisions and the human cost when applicatio­ns were rejected.

She added: “The government must reduce immigratio­n fees across the board, bringing them down to the cost of administra­tion, usually £300-400, according to the government’s own figures, and inject some humanity into the Home Office approach to all applicatio­ns.”

The Home Office launched the health and care visa last year for health and care workers, their spouse and children which provides fast track entry, reduced fees and exempts them from paying the Immigratio­n Health Surcharge.

It has also extended the visas of more than 6,000 frontline health workers and their dependents for free so they can continue to work for the NHS in the battle against coronaviru­s.

In response to the joint letter, Kevin Foster, minister for Future Borders and Immigratio­n, said: “We are hugely grateful for the vital contributi­ons all NHS staff have made during the pandemic, which is why we have introduced a range of unpreceden­ted measures to ensure the health and care sector is supported fully.

“Given the additional pressures elderly dependents can place on our health and social care systems, our route for adult dependents seeks to ensure only those who need to be physically close to and cared for by a close relative in the UK are able to settle here.

“The rules strike the right balance between ensuring that those who need support can come here, but without placing significan­t additional burdens on the NHS and local authoritie­s.”

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 ??  ?? HOME AND AWAY: Ministers have been urged to amend regulation­s so migrant healthcare workers can bring dependent family members to live with them in the UK; (left) Dr Rinesh Parmar; and (inset below) Dr Chaand Nagpaul
HOME AND AWAY: Ministers have been urged to amend regulation­s so migrant healthcare workers can bring dependent family members to live with them in the UK; (left) Dr Rinesh Parmar; and (inset below) Dr Chaand Nagpaul

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